April 30, 2014 11:30AM
Pittsburg State University students and campus officials gathered on Wednesday, April 30, to break ground on a building expansion and renovation that participants described as “historic.” The event was the symbolic kickoff for a transformation of PSU’s Overman Student Center.
Construction fences are expected to go up this week around the building. Plans call for a 31,000-square-foot extension to the east end of the building and remodeling of an almost equal space in the existing building. The total project, estimated to cost about $14 million, is funded almost entirely by students, who voted in 2012 to support the expansion and renovation.
Major aspects of the work include increasing the area for student dining, accommodating a new student activities complex and providing additional student lounge space. A larger, column-free ballroom will accommodate large events or can be subdivided for up to three smaller events held simultaneously. The University Club student lounge will be expanded and connected visually and physically to the student dining area above. Additional meeting rooms, improved circulation on the second level, more natural light throughout the building and accessible public restrooms are also features of the plan. The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2015.
“Our students will experience a facility unlike any other in the region,” said Steve Erwin, associate vice president for campus life and auxiliary services.
Catherine Geiger, the new president of the Student Activities Council, said the students are looking forward to the opportunities the expanded and renovate student center will provide.
“The additional space -- the new ballroom, the new offices, and new dining areas --will allow us to bring activities to campus that were never before an option,” Geiger said.
Geiger said students have played an important role in guiding the plans for the expansion and renovation.
“Our former president, Will Rhodes, and vice president, Ashley Cross, were included in meetings with administrators and architects where every detail was discussed,” she said.
Both PSU President Steve Scott and Kansas Regent Ed McKechnie joined in their praise of students for supporting a capital improvement plan that included the student center.
“A little over two years ago, students were asked to join with our alumni and friends to support one of the most ambitious capital improvement plans in Pittsburg State University’s history,” Scott said. “It was a plan that would allow this university to improve the lives of its students, attract world-class events, and assure that Pittsburg State would remain an academic destination for the region. I’m proud to say that they not only joined, but also provided the momentum that was needed to carry these projects forward.
“You can see the results of their decision in the form of the new Center for the Arts, the Plaster Center and now the expansion and renovation of the Overman Student Center. Students, you have set the standard for the next generation of Gorillas.”
McKechnie said that student input was and important consideration for the Kansas Board of Regents.
“As we reviewed this proposal two years ago, I was struck by the selflessness of the students and impressed by your commitment to a stronger university,” McKechnie said. “Your commitment to the future of this university has been recognized and praised by the Board of Regents, the legislature, and the governor. You have a lot of great things happening at Pitt State and you should all feel proud of your combined success.”
Describing the student center as the “living room” of the campus, Student Government Association President Jordan Schaper said the students who voted to support the current capital projects in 2012 were following a longstanding campus tradition of joining hands with the faculty, staff, alumni and community to make the university a better place.
“Time and time again, students have stepped forward to do what is necessary to ensure that Pittsburg State University -- OUR university -- remains a strong and vibrant source for academics, athletics and culture,” Schaper said.
Following the remarks, students joined with officials to turn the symbolic first spades of earth for the project. One of those was Jack H. Overman, a 1941 graduate who was named the first director of the newly constructed Student Center in 1951. Overman served in that capacity until his retirement in 1984. The building was rededicated in his honor in 1985.
The original student center was expanded in 1963 and 1995 and currently encompasses 93,000 square feet.
Jack Overman, first director of the Student Center, signs a banner to be included in a time capsule that will be opened in 25 years, right.